ArchiveApril 2022

Stop Food Waste Day 2022

Stop Food Waste Day on April 27th this year is all about raising awareness, igniting change and identifying more ways to change our behaviour and minimise food waste.  

You’ll all be familiar with at least some of the statistics.  33% of all the food produced globally is lost or wasted but did you know that 45% of all root crops grown never reach the table. 

Just 25% of all the food wasted could feed all the 95 million undernourished people in the world and 8% of all the greenhouse gas emissions each year are due to food loss or waste.  Shameful statistics – a massive issue for the planet and each and every one of us. 

Here at the Ballymaloe  Cookery School, even though we’ve got a strong focus on Zero Waste, we’ve still on a journey, gradually discovering and sharing more innovative ways to avoid food waste, we continue to encourage students to be mindful about simple things like throwing the veg peelings and herb stalks into the stock pot rather than the bin.  Scraps that don’t qualify for the stock pot go into the hen’s bucket in every kitchen to be recycled by the hens to come back as beautiful fresh eggs a few days later.  The shells go back into the hen’s bucket to add calcium to the shells of future eggs (and no it doesn’t encourage them to peck the shells of freshly laid eggs!). 

For many, unconscious wasting has become an acceptable way of life – it may surprise many to realise that this is a relatively new phenomenon.  When I was a child in the 1950’s, waste was not an option, all leftover scraps were used up deliciously, clothes and machinery were mended rather than discarded and built-in obsolescence was not a thing.  Hopefully as public opinion becomes more intolerant of the mantra ‘better to buy new than to fix, companies will be forced to rethink their policies. 

But back to food and what we can do in our homes and restaurants.   Cheap food is certainly part of the problem – ‘easy come, easy go’ but with cost spiralling, working towards a ‘Zero Waste’ policy in our homes or businesses was never more timely.  It may take a fundamental change in mindset for all the family or team but quite quickly it can become part of the ethos with everyone entering into the spirit.  There’s also a brilliant feel-good factor – good for the environment, your pocket and your business….

Start to cast an ‘eagle eye’ over what’s going into the bins.  Ideally plates should be empty after a meal.  If not, ask yourself, WHY? 

Are portions too large or perhaps it doesn’t taste good.  Zone in on the cause and remedy…  We need to view waste as ‘tearing up bank notes’.  Every morsel of waste matters…and in restaurants, the head chefs’ attitude to waste can quite easily be the difference between profit and loss in a business where margins are already tight. 

At home, you’ll be astonished how much money can be saved weekly once you focus on food waste.   We need to be conscientious ourselves and lead by example.  Chefs can scrutinise the menu, examine every single dish and ask – are we using every scrap of each ingredient, from ‘nose to tail’ and ‘root to shoot’.  Choose recipes that won’t result in waste.  Often though not always, fine dining restaurants are the most wasteful.  Long tasting menus that only utilize the choicest of morsels can result in the trimmings being dumped.  

Make stock with meat, fish bones, poultry carcasses and vegetable trimmings. This ought to be part of the work ethic.  Use as a base for soups, broths and sauces.

Stock can be frozen in recycled plastic gallon cream containers.

Both at home and in restaurants, listen to requests.  If someone asks for a small helping…. one piece of toast for breakfast or one slice of bread with a soup – that is what they want, don’t give them two!  One can always offer a second helping…

Relearn and teach your family and team the almost ‘forgotten skill’ of using leftovers to make delicious new dishes.

Leftover bread can be used in a myriad of ways to make other dishes such as bread and butter pudding, strata, French toast, breadcrumbs, croutons, pangrattato, croutini, crostini…

Link in with local farmers/vegetable growers to buy ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables and gluts in season, use all parts of the vegetable.  Make it a priority to pay them a fair price.   It’s possible to get 2 or 3 uses from many vegetables – e.g. beets – one can use the roots, stalks and young leaves in different ways.  It’s a valuable and fun exercise to educate yourself and your team by visiting the producers and learning about their process.

Encourage supermarkets and local shops to sell ‘less than perfectly shaped and sized fruit and vegetables.  They are just as delicious and can be sold for 30% less.  This minimises the waste on the farm and increases the farmers income.  According to the WHO, over 15% of food is lost before leaving the farm in great part due to supermarkets criteria for perfect produce. 

Reducing waste is one of the most immediate and impactful actions we as individuals can do to fight climate change.

Top tips

Have a stock box in your freezer (broth).

Cheese rind.

Whizz leftover Parmesan cheese rind in the food-processor and use in a Béchamel Sauce.

Leftover cooked fish.

Leftover cooked fish can be used in a myriad of ways – in salads, pastas, grain bowls, sandwiches, rice paper rolls, fish cakes.  If you have leftover raw fish, it’s really best to slowly poach it either in olive oil or fish stock, that way it keeps way better.  Once it’s carefully poached, it’s less time sensitive and can be used in all kinds of recipes for several days.

How about a simple salad.  Just flake the fish ‘confit’, mix gently with mayo or aioli, lots of freshly chopped herbs – chives, parsley, chervil, maybe fennel, a little pinch of mild chilli flakes, maybe piment d’ espelette or Aleppo pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Taste, season and pile onto toast or crackers to enjoy with a glass of dry white wine.

Alternatively, if you like crudo or lightly pickled fish.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight if it’s a thick piece.  For extra excitement, add a sprinkling of fennel seeds, maybe paprika or chilli flakes or freshly squeezed lemon juice – experiment.  One could also cook it lightly and add to pasta or a salad.  Have fun. 

Crispy Rice Cakes with Salmon, Avocado and Pickled Ginger

Ordinary cooked rice works perfectly too, though it’s not as sticky. 

leftover sushi rice or sticky rice

flaky sea salt

extra virgin olive oil

smoked salmon or gravlax

wedges of avocado

horseradish sauce or wasabi

pickled ginger

coriander sprigs (optional)

Line the base and sides of a small ‘lasagne’ dish with parchment paper.  Press the cooked rice into the dish so it’s about 1cm (1/2 inch) deep.  Cover and pop the block into the freezer for about 45 minutes.

Then unwrap, season with flaky sea salt.  Dust both sides with a little seasoned flour or cornflour.  Cut into fingers about 6 x 4cm (2 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch).

Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a wide, heavy frying pan.  Cook until crisp and golden on all sides (4-5 minutes).  Cool a little, spread a little horseradish sauce on each, add a strip of smoked salmon or gravlax, a wedge of avocado and a little pickled ginger and maybe a sprig of coriander.  Alternatively, use raw wild salmon when available and a dash of wasabi.  Dip in soy sauce and Enjoy!

Basic Sushi Rice

Easy to do but just follow the instructions.

450g (1lb) sushi rice “No 1 Extra Fancy”

600ml (1 pint) water

Vinegar Water

50ml (2fl oz) rice wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

Rinse the rice for 8-10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.

‘Wake up’ the rice by sitting it in 600ml (1 pint) cold water for 30 to 45 minutes.   In the same water, bring to the boil and then cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.  Do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds before turning the heat off.  Remove the lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace the lid and sit for 20 minutes.

Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl until dissolved.  Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden).  While the rice is still hot, pour the vinegar solution over the rice and mix the rice and vinegar together in a slicing action with the aid of a wooden spoon.  Don’t stir.  You must do it quickly, preferably fanning the rice with the fan.  This is much easier if you have a helper.  Allow to cool on the plate, cover with a tea towel and use as desired.  (It will soak up the liquid as it cools.)

Mashed Potato Pizza

Of course one can make potato cakes or croquettes but how about this potato pizza.

Serves 1

Leftover mashed potato

chorizo or pepperoni, diced

Tomato Fondue or homemade tomato sauce

Mozzarella or bocconcini

grated cheese, Parmesan, Pecorino or a mature Irish Cheddar cheese

flaky sea salt

oregano, basil or parsley sprigs to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 250˚C/500˚F/Gas Mark 10.

Spread the well-seasoned mashed potato into a well-oiled, hot metal dish or iron pan.  Sprinkle with little cubes of chorizo or pepperoni or ‘nduja.  Top with a layer of tomato fondue.  Add a few blobs of Mozzarella or bocconcini and sprinkle with grated cheese.  Pop into an oven and cook for 8-10 minutes until hot throughout and bubbling and golden.  Sprinkle with sprigs of fresh herbs and a few flakes of sea salt. 

Slide onto a hot plate and enjoy.  Needless to say, one can do all kinds of riffs on this theme depending on what looks enticing in your fridge.  I also love Turkish lamb mince made with:

1 tablespoon  extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

225g (8oz) freshly minced lamb

4 ripe tomatoes, finely diced

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin or pinch of cayenne (optional)

Sweat the onion in a little butter or oil and allow to cool completely.  Mix all the ingredients together and season well with salt and pepper.

Potato Peel Crisps

A brilliant and super tasty way to use potato peelings – you’ll never chuck them out again. 

Main crop potatoes are best for this recipe.  Scrub the potatoes well. Heat the oil (dripping/beef fat) in a deep fat fryer or in a pan with at least 4cm (1 1/2 inch) of oil if unavailable. Dry the peelings as best you can.

Drop one into the hot oil to check the temperature, it should bubble and rise to the surface if the oil is hot enough.

Cook the remainder of the peelings in batches until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, or a towel.

Sprinkle with pure salt and maybe a little chilli powder or dry roasted cumin powder for extra fizz.

Scones or Hot Cross Bun French Toast

A super delicious way to use up those stale scones or buns, you discover in the bottom of the bread bin!

Serves 2

2 stale scones or hot cross buns

3 organic free-range eggs

150ml (5fl oz) cream

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (optional)

To Serve

crème fraiche or softly whipped cream

mint sprigs or shredded mint leaves

Whisk the egg with the cream and add a pinch of cinnamon if using.  Pour onto a deep plate.  Split the scones or hot cross buns.  Put cut side down and allow to soak up the mixture.  Flip over and wait until both sides are saturated.

Meanwhile, melt a little butter on a medium heat, cook gently on both sides until golden.

Serve on hot plates with a blob of crème fraiche or softly whipped cream and a sprig of mint or some shredded fresh mint if available. 

Moroccan Style Stew

A scrummy way to use leftover lamb, beef, pork or chicken.

Serves 8

15g (generous 1/2oz) butter

olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

juice of 1 lemon (or lime)

450ml (16fl oz) homemade vegetable or chicken stock (plus more if needed)

1 large bunch of fresh coriander or parsley, finely chopped (or a mixture of both)

1 tablespoon shredded mint

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon or more cayenne pepper or chilli flakes depending on how feisty you’d like the flavour

leftover roast lamb (beef, pork or chicken), diced

Heat the butter and oil mixture in a large saucepan. Add the onion and gently fry for about 10 minutes until soft and slightly golden. Add the garlic and stir a couple of times.

Add the drained chickpeas and chopped tomatoes. Stir, then add the turmeric, honey, ginger, cinnamon, salt and freshly ground black pepper and the freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the liquid has reduced but not dried out completely. Top up with more liquid if necessary.

About 10 minutes before the end, add the chopped coriander and/or parsley, 1 tablespoon of fresh mint, paprika and cayenne or chilli flakes.

About 5 minutes before the end, add the leftover diced roast lamb, beef, pork or chicken.

Check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.

Sprinkle with lots of fresh herbs.

Tip: Add additional vegetables such as red peppers or cooked potatoes.

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter to you all.

Hope you are having a joyful holiday with all your family and friends.  If you have children around the house, there will probably be Easter eggs everywhere.  I have to say, I’m nostalgic for the days when I nibbled my one precious Easter egg slowly, enjoying every little morsel over several days.  I even kept the packaging and smoothed out the shiny, silver foil carefully with my fingers to bring into school to make a collage at art class.  Can you imagine…

Well, I’m going to dedicate this week’s column to using up leftovers from the Easter feast.  Do you have some lamb?  Spring lamb is delicious cold, provided it’s not refrigerated, I just cover the entire dish carefully with a tea-towel and keep it in a cool place.  My favourite way to enjoy morsels of leftover lamb is in white bread sandwiches with lots of butter, thinly sliced lamb, a few crisp slices of cucumber, a slick of apple and mint jelly and a few little flakes of sea salt – a delicious combination.  We use the handmade Family Pan we make in the Ballymaloe Bread Shed which tastes like a pan loaf used to taste like before the Chorley Wood method for bakeries became the norm. 

If you have more cold lamb, how about making a nice, big dish of my Moussaka for tomorrow’s supper.  Season it up well and use lots of chopped marjoram or oregano.  It reheats and freezes brilliantly and if anything, it even improves.  The only accompaniment needed is a green salad of Spring leaves and soft herbs. 

I adore devilled eggs.  If, like me you have hens, you’ll notice that they have got their ‘mojo’ back now that Spring has arrived and have gone into overdrive recently.  So, if you have a glut of eggs, they’ll pair deliciously with a few scraps of smoked salmon or mackerel and a little cucumber pickle to make a gorgeous little starter or a light lunch plate.

Now how about all that chocolate, collect up all the bits of Easter egg.  There are lots of ways to use us all those morsels.  Add it to scones or muffins as you might chocolate chips.  Alternatively, melt them in cream to make a chocolate ganache, which can be slathered over a chocolate cake, drizzled over vanilla ice-cream or whipped up into a Rum or Grand Marnier laced mousse.  It may also work well when melted or grated into your favourite chocolate cake but do reduce the sugar in the recipe because most Easter eggs are made from inexpensive chocolate that tends to be super sweet.

It’s also fun to make an Easter rocky road by adding a terrifying, combination of mini marshmallows, coarsely chopped speckled eggs, broken digestive biscuits and some Crunchie or honeycomb.  I love to add a few raisins and some whole, toasted nuts to the melted chocolate – a little freshly chopped mint adds extra zing and cuts the sweetness somewhat.

Leftover hot cross buns made a totally delicious bread and butter pudding.  Chop up frozen hot cross buns into chunks and add to chocolate chip cookies for a brilliant riff on the original.

Some chopped chocolate can be added to that too or you could pop a hot cross bun back into the oven to reheat, split it in half, add a dollop of chocolate ganache and a scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream or just a dollop of Jersey cream – a decadent treat with the extra feel-good factor of using up leftovers deliciously.

Slow Roast Shoulder of Spring Lamb with Wild Garlic Aioli and Fresh Mint Chutney

When wild garlic is not in season, double the quantity of parsley, it will still be delicious… 

Serves 8-10

1 whole shoulder of Spring lamb on the bone, weighing approximately 3.6kg (8lb)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Wild Garlic Aioli

Homemade Mayo

1-4 cloves of garlic, depending on size

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

2 teaspoons chopped wild garlic leaves (Allium ursinum)

4 -6 tablespoons lamb cooking juices

Fresh Mint Chutney

1 large cooking apple (we use Grenadier or Bramley Seedling), peeled and cored

a large handful of fresh mint leaves, Spearmint or Bowles mint

50g (2oz) onions

20-50g (1-2oz) castor sugar (depending on tartness of apple)

salt and cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Place the lamb shoulder in a wide roasting tin or oven tray with the skin side up. Score the skin to encourage the fat to run out during the cooking and to crisp up the skin. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Place in a roasting tin, transfer to the oven and roast for 30 minutes before turning the temperature down to 160°C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for a further 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is soft and succulent and will lift off the bones… 

Meanwhile make the aioli.

Note:  the crushed garlic may be mixed into the mayonnaise for the aioli.   Finally add the chopped parsley and wild garlic.  Taste for seasoning and correct if necessary.

This sauce cannot be finished until we have the juices from the cooked lamb.

Next make the fresh mint chutney.

Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor, season with salt and a little cayenne pepper.  Cover and keep cool. 

To test if the lamb is cooked to a melting tenderness, pull the shank bone and it and some of the meat should come away easily from the bone.

When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven. There will be plenty of fatty cooking juices. Strain these through a sieve into a bowl. Keep the lamb warm in the oven with the temperature reduced to 100°C/200°F/Gas Mark 1/4.

When the fat has risen to the surface of the lamb cooking juices, skim carefully and thoroughly with a spoon.

Thin out the garlic mayonnaise with 4-6 tablespoons of the degreased juice to achieve a consistency similar to softly whipped cream or in other words the mayonnaise should now just lightly coat the back of a spoon. Taste and correct the seasoning. 

Bring the remaining juices to a simmer and taste and correct seasoning.

To serve the lamb, a tongs or serving fork and spoon are the best implements to remove the meat from the bones.  Prise largish pieces off the bones and serve on hot plates with some of the hot cooking juices, Wild Garlic Aioli and the Fresh Mint Chutney drizzled over the top… 

Greek Moussaka

Serves 8

This Greek peasant recipe, served in almost every taverna in Greece is one of the best ways to use up leftover lamb.  There are many variations on the theme, some include a layer of cooked potato slices and raisins. I’m sure it’s not my imagination, but I sometimes feel that moussaka is even better on the second day.

350g (12oz) aubergines

350g (12oz) courgettes

1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes (use at this time of year) but very ripe fresh tomatoes are best in summer

1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra for frying

1 onion, finely chopped (include some green part of spring onion if you have it)

1 large garlic clove, crushed

450g (1lb) cooked minced lamb

1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or thyme

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

1 bay leaf

pinch of grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons plain white flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

50g (2oz) raisins, plumped up in hot water while you prepare the other ingredients (optional)

For the topping

45g (1 1/2 oz) butter

45g (1 1/2 oz) plain white flour

600ml (1 pint) whole milk

1 bay leaf

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons cream

110g (4oz) grated Gruyère or mature Cheddar cheese or a mixture

salt and freshly ground pepper

earthenware dish 25.5 x 21.5cm (10 x 8 1/2 inch)

Slice the aubergines and courgettes into 1cm (1/2 inch) slices, score the flesh lightly with a sharp tip of a knife, sprinkle with salt.  Leave for half an hour. Roughly chop the tinned tomatoes. Peel and chop the fresh tomatoes finely if using. Keep the juices.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat, add the onions and garlic and cover and sweat for 4 minutes. Add the meat, herbs, bay leaf and nutmeg to the onions. Stir in the flour, cook for 1 minute then pour in the tomatoes and their juice. Bring to the boil, stirring, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Season well.

Dab the aubergines dry with kitchen paper. Heat a pan-grill over a fairly high heat.  Brush both sides of the aubergines generously with extra virgin olive oil, cook until richly coloured on each side. Brush both sides of the courgettes with olive oil, pan-grill until richly coloured on each side. As the courgettes are ready, transfer into the bottom of a shallow casserole. Tip the meat mixture onto the courgettes, sprinkle with the drained raisins if using, then lay the fried aubergines on top. See that the top is as flat as possible.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour. Cook, stirring for 1 minute, then draw off the heat, add the milk slowly, whisking out the lumps as you go. Add the bay leaf. Return the pan to the heat and stir until boiling. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 2 minutes until thickened.  Whisk the egg yolk with the cream in a medium sized bowl. Pour the sauce on to this mixture whisking all the time. Add half the cheese and pour over the aubergines in the casserole. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and bake for 30-35 minutes in the preheated oven until completely reheated and nicely browned on top.  Serve with a good green salad.

Moussaka can be made up in large quantities ahead of time, cooled quickly and frozen after it has been closely covered with parchment paper.


In Autumn, if using fresh tomatoes at the end of the season, it may be necessary to use about 65ml (2 1/2fl oz) of stock to make the mince juicy enough.

Devilled Eggs with Smoked Salmon, Cucumber Pickle and Watercress

Smoked mackerel, trout or eel also works well here instead of the smoked salmon.

Serves 8

Devilled Eggs

4 free-range eggs

3-4 tablespoons homemade Mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chives

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

110g (4oz) smoked Irish salmon

Cucumber Pickle (see recipe)


watercress or flat parsley or chervil

First make the cucumber pickle (see recipe).

For the egg mayonnaise, hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling salted water, drain and put immediately into a bowl of cold water. (Eggs with a black ring around the yolk have been overcooked).

When cold, shell, slice in half lengthways and sieve the yolks into a bowl. Mix the sieved yolk with mayonnaise, add chopped chives and salt and pepper to taste. Fill into a piping bag and pipe into the whites. Garnish with a chive or a sprig of parsley or chervil.

To assemble

Slice the smoked salmon into 3mm (1/8 inch) thick slices straight down onto the skin, arrange 3 or 4 pieces on one side of the plate, place the stuffed egg beside it and then add some cucumber pickle to the plate. Garnish with a sprig of watercress or flat parsley or chervil and we like to serve it with Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread.

Egg Sandwiches

Coarsely chop the peeled eggs, season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, mix with mayonnaise and finely chopped chives. Add a little smoked paprika if you fancy.

Cucumber Pickle

You won’t need all of this, but it keeps well and is a brilliant store cupboard standby.

Serves 10-12

1kg (2 1/4lb) thinly sliced unpeeled cucumber

3 small onions thinly sliced

200g (7oz) sugar

2 level tablespoons salt

225ml (8fl oz) cider vinegar

Combine the cucumber and onion sliced in a large bowl.  Mix the sugar, salt and vinegar together and pour over cucumbers.  Place in a tightly covered container in refrigerator and leave for at least 4-5 hours or overnight before using. 

Keeps well for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Ganache

A brilliant multi-purpose recipe.  Use as a sauce over ice-cream, to ice a chocolate cake or allow to cool and whisk up into a mousse for feather-light chocolate truffles.

225g (8oz) plain chocolate, chopped – we use 52% (Valrhona or Callebaut) but one could use up leftover chocolate

175ml (6fl oz) cream

1-2 teaspoons rum or orange liqueur (optional)

Put the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the cream to the boil, pour over the chocolate, add the booze if using.  Leave for 8-10 minutes or until cool.  Pour over ice-cream as a sauce or use to ice a cake.

For chocolate truffles, whisk the chocolate and cream together gently until it reaches really soft peaks – careful not to over whisk or it will be too stiff to roll and may turn into chocolate butter. Roll into balls and coat with cocoa or praline to make delicious little chocolate truffles. 

An After Easter Rocky Road

Scary stuff but addictive – an inspired way to use up leftovers!

This recipe is not carved in stone so use what you have access to…

Makes 24-36 depending on size

125g (4 1/2oz) unsalted butter

300g (10oz) chocolate

300g (10oz) mini marshmallows

110g (4oz) cherries, cut in half or a mixture of cherries and Crunchie

110g (4oz) raisins

110g (4oz) hazelnuts (toasted and skinned)

110g (4oz) biscuits, chopped or broken

150g (5oz) mini speckled eggs – leave 75g (3oz) whole and cut the remaining in halves.

23cm (9 inch) square tin (5cm/2 inch depth) lined with silicone paper

Melt the butter and chocolate gently in a Pyrex bowl sitting over a saucepan of tepid water, allow to cool but while still liquid stir in the marshmallow, halved cherries, Crunchies (if using), raisins, hazelnuts, biscuits and mini speckled eggs. Toss gently to coat in the melted chocolate. Pour into a lined tin and allow to set for 2 hours or over overnight.

Cut into 4 x 7.5cm (1 1/2 x 3 inch) squares or whatever you fancy.

Easter Baking

For intrepid and enthusiastic bakers, Easter is a super exciting time of the year.  Every country around the world has its Easter baking traditions – from Finland to Greece, Spain to Romania, Italy, Ukraine and indeed Russia too!

Many of the Nordic and Eastern countries have elaborate egg painting traditions, and dyed hard-boiled eggs are incorporated into enriched braided yeast breads in Greece, Italy and Spain.  Using up as many of the surplus eggs accumulated during the Lenten session was definitely a priority in country households. 

All manner of celebration cakes were baked, not just to mark Easter itself but also the arrival of Spring, Our Lord’s resurrection and in Finland, Pääsiäisleipä, a festive cylindrical bread flavoured with orange, lemon, lots of dried fruit and cardamom, traditionally baked in milking pails was made to celebrate the arrival of new calves!

Germany and Austria still have a rich baking tradition.  Families bake a wide variety of delicious Easter biscuits to share with family and friends.  I first tasted a variety of these little biscuits in the late 1960’s when I was invited to my first ever Easter Bunny hunt by Irene Bauer, she and her mother, refugees from the Second World War lived at Ballymaloe for over 20 years.  They brought their cherished traditions and customs with them from their native Bavaria and shared the recipes with us.  Everyone had their favourites, I remember loving Terrassen (triple butter shortbread cookies sandwiched with jam) and Haselnussmakronen (hazelnut macaroons) too.  The latter are naturally dairy and gluten-free – made just from egg whites, ground hazelnuts, a little cinnamon and sugar.  I also remember butter cookies which had sprinkles on top.  They could be made in a variety of shapes including bunnies for Easter and fir trees for Christmas.

Our Easter traditions are Simnel Cake, a gorgeous rich fruit cake iced with toasted marzipan with an extra layer of marzipan baked into the centre and of course hot cross buns.  The children make chocolate Rice Krispie nests and fill them with speckled eggs and lots and lots of Easter bunny biscuits to hide in the garden and share with their friends.  Making Easter biscuits is time consuming but fun when it becomes a family activity, that’s what memories are made of…Let’s keep all the customs going and pass both traditions and recipes onto the next generation. 

* All these biscuits keep for several weeks in an airtight container if you can resist them. 

Easter Butter Biscuits (Buttergebad)

These biscuits can be made into any shape you fancy – bunnies, Easter eggs….

Makes 60-70 biscuits

400g (14oz) soft butter

200g (7oz) sugar

5 egg yolks – save the egg whites for macaroons

500g (18oz) plain white flour


1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons cream


Line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, cream the butter, sugar and egg yolks.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Sieve and stir in the flour, turn out onto a board and knead the mixture until it comes together.  Rest for 30 minutes in a fridge to firm up. 

Mix the egg yolk and cream together for the glaze.

Preheat the oven to 160˚C/325˚F/Gas Mark 3.

Roll out the dough into scant 5mm (1/4 inch) approx. thick and stamp out into Easter shapes – bunnies etc. 

Brush the top with glaze and scatter with sprinkles.  Put on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes approx. making sure to keep an eye on them.  Cool on a wire rack. 

Mrs Bauer’s Terrassen Biscuits

The Bauer’s were a German refugee family that my father-in-law gave a home and a job to in 1947.

Makes 10 – 15

You will need three different size biscuit cutters: 6cm (2 1/2 inch), 5cm (2 inch), 4cm (1 1/2 inch) of the same shape – bunnies, hearts, stars, teddy bears or whatever is your fancy

350g (12oz) white flour

110g (4oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) cold butter

raspberry jam

icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl; rub in the cold butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 5mm (1/4 inch) thick.  Cut into biscuits of whatever shape you choose of equal numbers.  Bake in the preheated oven until they are pale brown, 10 – 15 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack.

You may need to gather the pastry together a couple of times and reroll it after each cutting.

When the biscuits are cold place the largest one on a sheet of parchment paper, take the medium-size biscuit and butter some jam on the base, then place down in the centre of the larger biscuit, then take the smallest biscuit and butter some jam on the base of that and places carefully into the centre of the medium size biscuit then dust with icing sugar.  Repeat with the rest of your biscuits.

Easter Almond Crisps

Makes 30 biscuits

110g (4oz) self-raising flour

pinch of salt

50g (2oz) caster sugar

50g (2oz) butter, diced

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic


1 egg white, preferably free-range and organic

110g (4oz) icing sugar, sieved


40g (1 1/2oz) almonds, roughly chopped

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl and add the caster sugar.   Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the egg yolks and mix to a firm dough. Wrap in parchment paper and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Roll out the pastry on a lightly-floured worktop or between 2 pieces of parchment paper.  Cut the pastry with a floured 5cm (2 inch) round fluted cutter.  Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheets.

To make the icing, whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage and gradually add in the icing sugar.  Put a small teaspoon of icing in the centre of each biscuit, smooth it slightly and sprinkle the chopped almonds on top of the biscuits. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, until light golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Easter Hazelnut Macaroons

Makes 50 approx.

250g (9oz) hazelnuts

250g (9oz) vanilla sugar

a pinch of pure cinnamon (optional)

4 egg whites, preferably free-range and organic

50 whole hazelnuts, toasted for garnish

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

Cover 2 or 3 baking sheets with silicone paper.

Place the whole hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the skins loosen (keep an eye on them so that they don’t burn).  Remove from the oven and rub off the skins in a tea towel.  Grate the peeled hazelnuts in a nut mill or whizz with a little of the sugar in a food processor until quite fine – add cinnamon if using.

Whisk the egg with the caster sugar until they hold a stiff peak.

Fold in the grated hazelnuts.  Drop a teaspoon of the mixture onto the baking sheets and top each one with a toasted whole hazelnut.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes approx.  Cool on a wire rack.

Easter Coconut Meringues

Easy peasy to make, can be tiny bites or adapted to make two x 18cm (7 inch) coconut meringue discs for a delectable pudding (bake the meringues for 45 minutes or until set and crisp and allow to cool).  I’ve also made these with frozen desiccated coconut, even more delicious – reduce the coconut to 50g (2oz). 

Makes 30 approx.

2 egg whites, preferably free-range and organic

125g (4 1/2oz) vanilla castor sugar

75g (3oz) unsweetened desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with silicone. 

Whisk the egg whites with the vanilla sugar until very stiff and gently fold in the desiccated coconut gently.  Drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the baking sheets and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes approx. 

Cool on a wire rack. 

Easter Hazelnut Sticks

This is another hazelnut biscuit but quite different to the macaroons.

Makes 45 approx. 

150g (5oz) plain flour 
125g (4 1/2oz) cold butter
125g (4 1/2oz) ground hazelnuts
125g (4 1/2oz) vanilla caster sugar 

1 egg white, preferably free-range and organic 
75g (3oz) icing sugar, sieved 

Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Grate the cold butter into tiny pieces and toss in the flour so they won’t stick together. Mix in the ground hazelnuts and vanilla caster sugar and knead until it forms a dough. Cover and leave to rest in a fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.
Line 2 or 3 baking trays with parchment paper.

Divide the dough in half.  Roll on parchment paper to 5mm (1/4 inch) thick.  Transfer to a baking sheet.  Cut into strips 2cm (3/4 inch) wide and 7.5cm (3 inch) long.  Space apart to allow enough room for expansion. 

Repeat with the rest. 

Whisk the egg white lightly and stir into the icing sugar. Spread the glaze over the dough. 

Bake for approximately 20 minutes until the glaze is pale, coffee colour.  Cool on a wire rack.

Easter Egg Nests

Super easy and fun to make – decorate with fluffy Easter chicks.

Makes 24

4ozs (110g) Rice Krispies or Cornflakes

6ozs (175g) Chocolate

72 speckled mini eggs

cupcake papers or ring moulds

Put the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water.  Bring just to the boil, turn off the heat immediately and allow to melt in the bowl.  Stir in the Rice Krispies or Cornflakes.

Spoon into cupcake cases.  Flatten a little and make a well in the centre.  Fill with three speckled chocolate mini eggs.  Allow to set. 

World Health Day

World Health Day is on Thursday, 7th April this year.  There’s a special day for virtually everything nowadays but it’s definitely worth reflecting on the source of good health.

It may come as a surprise to many but the reality is our health comes from the soil, from healthy living soil, not from labs, factories or anywhere else.  We are what we are from the moment of conception, a mixture of genes from our ancestors, an accident of birth that we have no control over but we can certainly influence our health and wellbeing by nourishing ourselves with vital living chemical-free food rather than with ultra-processed food that we now know damages our health and, in many cases, causes disease.   

Every bite of food we eat has consequences, not just on our health but also the environment and the livelihood of our farmers and food producers.  I trawled through the references on the World Health Day website and Wikipedia but I failed to find any reference to the importance of the soil.  Perhaps I missed something but I so wish this basic fact could be better understood and highlighted.  We are totally dependent on the varying layer of topsoil around the world for our very existence.  Sadly much of that soil is now seriously degraded.  Here in Ireland where we are fortunate overall to have a high percentage of good land, a recent Teagasc report concluded that 90% of Irish soils are deficient in one or more main soil nutrients.   Minerals come from the earth’s crust, if they are not there, they cannot be in our food.  The ‘green’ revolution unintentionally damaged the soil and contributed to the decrease in mineral density in many crops, not just wheat.

Numerous peer reviewed studies in the US, Canada and UK clearly show the steady decline in nutrient density in a wide variety of conventionally grown fruit and vegetables since the mid 1900’s. At present because of the ‘cheap food policy’, the price at farm gate is rarely enough to enable the farmers to produce the kind of healthy wholesome food we say we want. Farmers are paid for volume and yield rather than nutrient levels.  If this emphasis were to change and it urgently needs to , it would be a complete game changer – better to pay the farmers to keep us healthy than have to pay the doctors for a cure.

Agribusiness is called agribusiness for a reason; the primary focus is on making money…New varieties are bred and selected for particular characteristics that impact the bottom line.  Cultivars are chosen for disease resistance, high yields and physical appearance rather than maximum nutrient density.  Intensive farming methods strip the soil of nutrients, chemical pesticides are formulated to kill specific weeds and/or pests but they also kill beneficial microorganisms in the soil.  Microbes recycle and release nutrients into the soil, they are crucial to nutrient density.  Just as our health depends on what we eat, vegetables and plants depend on what they absorb from the soil – so in the words of Lady Eve Balfour whom I have quoted many times in this column ‘The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.’ 

Nutritionally deficient food, and that applies to much of the food we consume nowadays unless we are fortunate to have access to organic or chemical-free food, grown on rich, fertile soil, does not satisfy…This may well explain why even after eating big portions of food, one still feels hungry and can crave more contributing to the growing obesity problem…

Someone recently asked, ‘Why do I still feel hungry when I eat four pieces of sliced pan but when I eat one slice of natural sourdough made from organic wheat, I somehow feel satisfied?’  I don’t have to spell out the answer…

Many studies confirm that we are fortunate if fruit or veg contain 50% of the nutrients they did in the 1950’s.  Apparently, one needs to eat 7 or 8 oranges nowadays to get the same amount of vitamins and minerals one did several decades ago.  

So what to do…?

1. Seek out and support the small farmers and food producers at your local Farmers’ Market

2. Join an organic box scheme – Check your local area first but Green Earth Organics based in Co. Galway deliver to every county in Ireland.

3. Join your local branch of NeighbourFood.  If there isn’t one in your area, start one.  Founders Jack Crotty and Simone Crotty will generously share the model information with you – contact details,

4. Incorporate some wild and foraged foods that contain far more vitamins, minerals and trace elements into your diet – they are more nutritionally complex than many cultivated foods.

5. So as we move closer to the growing season, let’s redouble our efforts to grow some of our own food, even if it’s just one or two items. Get together with your pals and make a plan – you grow beets and scallions,  someone else grows tomatoes, cucumber, courgettes…Everyone grows salad leaves and radishes then share…

Listen to the excellent BBC Food Programme Podcast on the True Price of Food – unmissable and thought provoking. 

Check out the Sustainable Food Trust podcasts… inspirational… 

The food is medicine movement has been around for decades advocating that healthy, wholesome foods could be prescribed in many instances to prevent, limit or even reverse illness by changing people’s diets.  However, many doctors feel that they are not being equipped at medical school with the knowledge on nutrition they need to advise their patients to change their diet rather than resort to supplements. 

Here are a few inexpensive and delicious recipes to boost your family’s immune system and spread joy.

Potato and Wild Garlic Soup

At present,  the air in our local woods  is heavy with the smell of wild garlic. Both the bulbs and leaves of wild garlic are used in this soup and the pretty flowers are divine, sprinkled over the top of each soup bowl. Gather some on your next walk… 

Serves 6

45g (scant 2oz) butter

150g (5oz) peeled and chopped potatoes

110g (4oz) peeled and chopped onion

salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1 1/2 pints) water or home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock

300ml (10fl oz) creamy milk

125g (4 1/2oz) chopped wild garlic leaves, (Allium ursinum)


wild garlic flowers

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the wild garlic leaves. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the stock and milk, bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the wild garlic and boil with the lid off for 4-5 minutes with the lid off approximately until the wild garlic is cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or food processor. Taste and correct seasoning.  Serve sprinkled with a few wild garlic flowers.

Everyday Dahl

Taken from ‘How To Cook’ by Darina Allen published by Kyle Books

This truly delicious dahl comes from Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar, one of my favourite places to stay and eat in all of India.  They call it Usha Mem Sahib’s dahl.  A delicious vegetarian option or serve with pan grilled fish or a lamb chop or just with flatbreads…

Serves 6

900ml (1 1/2 pints) water

200g (7oz) split red lentils

3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced on a mandolin

1 ripe tomato, peeled and chopped

110g (4oz) finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons tamarind water (see method in recipe)

3 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons fresh coriander, coarsely chopped

To Serve

natural yoghurt and cooked rice

Tamarind Water

40g (1 1/2oz) tamarind

150ml (5fl oz) warm water


50g (2oz) clarified butter or ghee

3 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 dried red chilli, broken into 5mm (1/4 inch) pieces, or 1 teaspoon chilli flakes

1/4 teaspoon, ground coriander

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons fresh coriander, coarsely chopped

natural yogurt

To make the tamarind paste, soak the tamarind in the warm water for at least 30 minutes or several hours or overnight if possible, until softened.  Push through a sieve and discard the pips.  Save any leftover tamarind water in a covered jar in the fridge for another recipe – it keeps for up to 3 months.

Put the water, lentils, garlic, tomato, onion, tamarind water, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and salt into a saucepan on a medium heat.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 18-20 or until the lentils are completely soft. 

For the tempering.

Melt the clarified butter in a pan over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds.  When the cumin pops, add the chilli and cook for a minute. Stir in the ground coriander.

Carefully pour the tempering over the lentils as it will sizzle and splash. Cook over a low heat for 3 minutes, add the lemon juice, sugar and chopped coriander and season to taste.  Serve with a dollop of natural yogurt on top and some rice alongside.

Gratin of Potato and Mushroom

If you have a few wild mushrooms e.g. chanterelles or field mushrooms, mix them with ordinary mushrooms for this gratin. If you can find flat mushrooms, all the better, one way or the other the gratin will still be delectable on its own or as a side… Mushrooms are super nutritious. 

Serves 6

1kg (2 1/4lbs) ‘old’ potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

225g (8oz) mushrooms or a mixture of cultivated mushrooms, brown mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and shitake


1 clove garlic, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

300ml (10fl oz) light cream (200ml (7fl oz) of cream and 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of milk)

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), or Irish mature Cheddar cheese

Ovenproof gratin dish 25.5cm (10 inch) x 21.5cm (8 1/2 inch)

Slice the mushrooms. Peel the potatoes and slice thinly into 5mm (1/4 inch) slices.   Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.  Add the potato slices to the boiling water.  As soon as the water returns to the boil, drain the potatoes.  Refresh under cold water.  Drain again and arrange on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. 

Grease a shallow gratin dish generously with butter and sprinkle the garlic over it. Arrange half the potatoes in the bottom of the dish, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cover with the sliced mushrooms. Season again and finish off with a final layer of overlapping potatoes.

Bring the cream almost to boiling point and pour over the potatoes. Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for 1 hour approx. at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, until the gratin becomes crisp and golden brown with the cream bubbling up around the edges.

This gratin is terrifically good with a pan-grilled lamb chop or a piece of steak.

Slow-Cooked Lamb with Cannellini Beans, Tomatoes and Rosemary

Bean stews make the perfect one-pot meal – comforting, filling and inexpensive. Gremolata is a fresh-tasting mix of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. I use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious! If you’re short of time, you could replace it with some
chopped parsley instead.

Serves 6

500g (18oz) boned shoulder of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) cubes

plain flour, for dusting

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

50g (2oz) onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

225g (8oz) carrots, finely diced

1 stick of celery, finely diced

2 bay leaves

a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 x 400g (14oz) tins of Italian tomatoes, chopped

300ml (10fl oz) white wine

300ml (10fl oz) homemade lamb stock or water

2 x 400g (14oz) tins of cannellini beans, rinsed in cold water and drained (*see note at end of recipe)

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Gremolata

4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped organic lemon zest

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

flaky sea salt, to taste

Dust the cubes of lamb with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a casserole and fry the lamb in batches until brown. Remove the lamb to a plate and set aside.

Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery to the casserole and cook over a medium heat for 3–4 minutes until the onions are beginning to soften and are slightly golden. Add the lamb.

Reduce the heat to low and put in the bay leaves, rosemary, tomatoes, white wine and lamb stock or water. Bring slowly to the boil, cover the pan with a lid and simmer very gently for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the lamb is tender. Add the cannellini beans 15 minutes before the end.  Remove the rosemary sprigs and bay leaves from the lamb and check the seasoning.

To make the gremolata, mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl, season to taste with salt and serve soon.

Serve sprinkled with the gremolata and a big bowl of buttery scallion champ. 


If time isn’t a problem, soak 400g (14oz) of cannellini beans in lots of water overnight, they will double in volume.  Drain, add to the pot with the tomatoes, wine and stock and continue to cook until both the beans and lamb are fully cooked.

Scallion Champ

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions with a blob of butter melting in the centre, add the butter just before serving so it melts into the centre. ‘Comfort’ food at its best.

Serves 4-6

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g (scant 2oz) chopped chives

350ml (10-12fl oz) milk

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. * Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin and add the lump of butter just before serving.

Darina’s Favourite Rhubarb Tart with Custard

This is a gem of a recipe – a real keeper. The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

Serves 8-12


225g (8oz) soft butter

50g (2oz) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

350g (12oz) white flour, preferably unbleached


900g (2lbs) sliced red rhubarb (about 1cm thick)

200g – 370g (7 – 12oz) granulated sugar depending on whether you are using forced or garden rhubarb

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados/soft dark brown sugar


tin, 18cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm (7 x 12 x 1 inch) deep

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs one by one and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour slowly. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 3mm (1/8 inch) thick approx. and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Place the sliced rhubarb into the tart, sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar and/or with lots and lots of custard.

Crème Anglaise (Custard Sauce)

This basic sauce is usually flavoured with vanilla but can be made with any number of other ingredients, such as lemon or orange rind or mint.  It is used in many recipes including ice-cream, though in that case the proportion of sugar is much higher than usual because unsweetened cream is added during the freezing. 

600ml (1 pint) milk

vanilla pod or other alternative flavouring

6 egg yolks

50g (2oz) sugar

Bring the milk almost to the boil with the vanilla pod.  In a Pyrex bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and light.  Whisk in the hot milk in a slow and steady stream.  Replace in a clean saucepan and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard thickens slightly.  Your finger should leave a clear trail when drawn across the back of the spoon.

Remove from the heat at once and strain.  Cool, cover tightly and chill.  The custard can be kept for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. 

Note: The mixture is replaced in a clean saucepan to avoid the mixture catching on the bottom of the pan).


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